(Host) According to a new study, Vermont is one of a handful of states that have complied with the first key requirement of the new federal health care law.
The requirement calls for the creation of ‘health care exchanges’ that are designed to act as a marketplace for health insurance policies beginning in 2014.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:
(Kinzel) A central part of Act 48, the new health care law passed by the Legislature this past session, is the establishment of so called health care exchanges.
These exchanges are an important component of the new federal health care law and states that fail to implement their own exchanges by 2013 risk having the federal government take over this responsibility.
Anya Rader Wallack is Governor Peter Shumlin’s chief health care advisor and she helped guide Act 48 through the Legislature.
She says the exchange serves several functions. First, it acts as a marketplace where consumers can compare different health insurance policies based on a common benefits package.
(Rader Wallack) "Vermont established a health benefit exchange which is a technical term for them and we’ll have several years of work to do to have it fully operational but we have the structure on the books and can start actually putting it in place."
(Kinzel) Rader Wallack says the exchange also provides the framework to implement efforts to streamline the administration of health care services.
(Rader Wallack) "So trying to do things like a single claims processing system through it and having simplified rules across all carriers so that both consumers and health care providers realize some benefit from reduced administrative hassle as a result of doing business with the exchange."
(Kinzel) The exchange is also the way that some consumers and small businesses can qualify for federal subsidies to purchase health care policies. Rader Wallack says individuals with incomes below 43 thousand dollars are eligible for a tax credit.
(Rader Wallack) "So low income individuals can realize a federal tax credit by purchasing coverage through the Exchange and certain some businesses are also eligible for tax credits if they purchase through the Exchange."
(Kinzel) The details of the benefit package for policies sold under the exchange will be developed by the Green Mountain Care Board. Governor Shumlin is expected to announce the appointment of the Board’s five members by the end of next month.
For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.